Wrestling Review: WWE Survivor Series 2003

Image Source: The SmackDown Hotel

WWE Survivor Series 2003

For being one of the big 4 of WWE’s PPVs, Survivor Series doesn’t seem to have the prestige that the other three do. WrestleMania is the granddaddy of them all, the biggest show of the bunch. Royal Rumble is the precis, with a battle royal that’s usually made it the highlight of the year (mostly), while SummerSlam has had several classic match-ups, be it the Mega-Powers (Hulk Hogan & Macho Man Randy Savage) vs. Mega-Bucks (Andre The Giant & Ted DiBiase) bout at the first one, or The Rock taking on Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002.

What about Survivor Series? It has its own classic match – the team elimination bouts – yet they never quite hit that itch the others did. A Royal Rumble without the Royal Rumble would stink to high heaven no matter how many 5* matches were on the card, yet there have been Survivor Series without the titular matches, and few if anyone raised a complaint about it.

But there were good Survivor Series shows, and good Survivor Series match-ups, and 2003’s show was on the good side of the spectrum. Or at least it is through my rose-tinted glasses. I reconnected with pro-wrestling during 2003-2004 in the dying days of retail VHS, when WWE were still producing them through Silver Vision. I had some disposable income to spare, and a VHS player, so why not? But I was 17-going-on-18 years old back then. Will its highlights still please the old man I’ve become? Has the show overall stood up to the test of time?

The show took place on November 16 2003 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, and 13,487 fans filed in to see what would happen. There’s a moody video package about what it takes to ‘survive’; whether Goldberg can ‘survive’ Evolution’s assault, whether Stone Cold’s career will ‘survive’ the night, or whether either McMahon can survive their individual matches against the Brothers of Destruction. This was during the original brand split, when both Raw and SmackDown had their own PPVs, but Survivor Series was one of the dual-brand shows. Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler called the Raw matches, while SmackDown’s were covered by Michael Cole and Tazz. Better get used to them as they call the first match of the night.

Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
Team Angle (Kurt Angle, John Cena, Chris Benoit, Bradshaw & Hardcore Holly) vs. Team Lesnar (Brock Lesnar, A-Train, Big Show, Nathan Jones and Matt Morgan)

It starts off with John Cena, who opens the night with a little rap. He does a pretty good job putting over the rest of the card at the same time as his match, with references to the Ambulance and Buried Alive matches. Though it is more of a poem than a rap. He also wonders “if I could trade my partners in for a one-night stand with Sable.” I wonder if Brock Lesnar took that advice to heart, given the stiffs he’s working with. Then the rest of the crew comes out. When Hardcore Holly arrives, where Cole brings up the broken neck he suffered last year as a result of a botched powerbomb from Lesnar. It’s a little surprising they worked a brief feud around it. Angle rounds off his team, getting “You Suck” chants regardless of his alignment. Big Show starts off the role-call of baddies, holding up his US title belt, which Tazz says looks tiny “on his huge, pectoral region”. A-Train follows suit, swinging his arms about, before Nathan Jones – “The Colossus of Boggo Road” – walks moodily out to menacing didgeridoos. Did you know he was Australian? Matt Morgan – the future “DNA of TNA” – follows shortly. Then-WWE Champ Brock Lesnar finishes off the team, with a quick cut to a growling Hardcore Holly.

Holly wastes no time getting started on Lesnar, attacking him before the bell. Unfortunately, that gets him eliminated via disqualification. Probably shouldn’t have shoved the referee. So, it’s already down to a 5-on-4 assault by the time the bell rings. But the eliminations come through fast. Bradshaw eliminates A-Train with a Clothesline from Hell, only for Big Show to take him out with a chokeslam. That’s an early shower and a quick payday for them. John Cena tries to lift Big Show for a FU (not yet the Attitude Adjustment), but it doesn’t work out. Show tags in Lesnar, and he and Cena have a pretty good back-and-forth. Cena even tries to get two quick roll-ups in a row before getting denied. He does a good job playing the babyface in peril too, as Team Lesnar take turns beating him up. He eventually tags in Benoit, who gets a rougher beating when he gets in trouble. He eventually gets the upper hand on Show by reversing a Chokeslam into a Crossface. Lesnar storms in to make the save, before getting pushed back to his corner. Show goes for an Abdominal Stretch on Benoit, where he holds hands with Jones for … moral support? The idea is that he’s helping Show get leverage while the ref isn’t looking, but there’s no extra pullback there.

Show then tries to get a pin with the Hoglock, but Angle saves the day with a boot. Not that it helps Benoit in the long run, as Show plays distraction with taunts while Morgan chucks Benoit out for Lesnar to attack on the outside. It turns into a big, brief, brawl on the outside until the ref manages to separate them and get Show and Benoit back in. Benoit manages to tag Angle in, and he comes out blazing. He hits Morgan with the Triple Germans, knocks Jones down, then hits the Triple Germans on Lesnar. He dodges an attack from Jones, who ends up hitting Morgan, before knocking him out of the ring…just about. He has a little trouble with it. One Angle Slam later and Morgan is eliminated. Angle evades a double-team attempt from Jones and Show, then eliminates Jones with the Ankle Lock. But his rampage comes to an end with Lesnar eliminates him with an F5.

It’s down to two-on-two, Cena & Benoit vs. Lesnar & Show. Things cool off with a back-&-forth between Benoit and Lesnar, until Benoit reverses an F5 into a Crossface. Show tries to interfere, but Cena catches him, yet the distraction is enough for Lesnar to attempt a pin reversal for the two-count. Benoit locks it back on, only for Lesnar to get his feet on the ropes. Lesnar’s luck runs out when Benoit reverses a clothesline into a Crossface in the middle of the ring. With no ropes and no luck, Lesnar has no choice but to tap out. The crowd even taunts him for it. Benoit fights back against Show and goes for a Diving Headbutt while he’s crouching, which only gets a 2-count. He even tries for a Crossface, but Show stands up out of it and shoves Benoit into Cena, which the referee counts as a tag. Show knocks Benoit down and, while the referee’s checking on him, Cena sneaks in with a chain-covered fist and punches Show in the face. He lifts him up for the FU and wins the day for Team Angle.

This was a pretty fun match. It really worked to the wrestlers’ strengths. Angle got his big spots in, Lesnar got to play the sneaky heel, and Jones … was there. There was even a nice story, with the rising Cena earning the veteran Benoit’s respect at the end with a handshake and fist bump. It’s like the company has big plans for him, and for Benoit too. But that’s a story for another PPV.

Backstage, and Vince McMahon goes to check in on his son Shane. Vince brings up the father & son vs. brothers angle, saying it has a certain “spirituality” to it. That he’s being protected by a Higher Power. Considering who the last ‘Higher Power’ turned out to be, maybe he’s predicting the rise of ‘McMahonism’ two and a half years later. Instead, Shane says he feels sorry for his dad. Vince takes the hint, only to come face to face with Austin. They stare at each other before slowly breaking out into laughter. Vince almost seems comfortable, until Austin goes back into a frown. By WWE standards, it’s a great moment where the two say a lot without saying more than “ha ha ha”.

Women’s Championship Match
Molly Holly (C) vs. Lita

Lita’s back from neck surgery! Shame her old music didn’t come with her. Your mileage may vary, but the lyrical version is godawful. Molly Holly’s generic riff is a breath of fresh air by comparison. Still, this match looks promising. Lita’s got the stunt and charisma, and Molly’s got the workrate. So, it should work out. And it does! At least for a while. There’s some back-and-forth action, and a nice headscissors attempt from Lita that Molly reverses into a dump to the outside. Molly’s reverse headlock rest hold even adds to the storytelling as JR plays up the pressure on Lita’s neck. While Lawler plays up the angle the camera got of Molly’s cleavage. What insight.

Molly whips Lita into the corner and hits her with a Handspring Back Elbow (“Shades of the Great Muta!” declares JR). Lita manages to boot her back and hit a top-rope cross body for a 1-count. She even works in a ten-punch spot. Molly tries for one of her own, complete with trash talk, but gets a powerbomb for her trouble. Lita misses a Moonsault, which Molly capitalises with a Molly-Go-Round, which only gets a 2. This upsets her so much that she undoes the pad on the second turnbuckle. It’s a pretty specific spot to unleash your frustrations on, but it’s part of the match’s ultimately limp finish. Lita tries to grab her, but Molly trips her into the turnbuckle, then gets the pin. It’s a sneaky heel win, yet it doesn’t blend in so well with the rest of the match.

Ambulance Match
Kane vs. Shane McMahon

This is perhaps one of the more notorious feuds leading into the show. Kane hit Linda McMahon with a Tombstone Piledriver. Shane then confronted Kane, with the glare of a thousand suns, and said he’s going to make Kane’s life “a living hell”. He did a lot too- smacking him with a chair, kicking him into a burning dumpster, sending him into a trailer in a runaway car, etc. Kane responded by tying Shane to a ring post and hooking his genitals up to a car battery. As you do. Basically, it’s gotten so bad that the only way it can end is if one of these men ends up in the hospital. Hence the Ambulance Match- the first man to debilitate his opponent enough to chuck him into the back of the waiting ambulance set on the stage wins. People were down on bald, mask-less Kane around this time, yet he still manages to be monstrous here. He’s a world away from ‘Embrace the Hate’ Fruit Rollup-Mask Kane a decade later (Team Hell No notwithstanding).

The match starts, and Shane almost wins immediately by clotheslining Kane over the top rope and making him land on his head. Luckily, he’s okay, and he ends up assaulted by Shane’s infamous fists. Least they’re connecting this time. After a brawl, he traps Kane under the steel stair. Then he whacks the top of the steps with a chair. The idea behind it is that he’s hammering the stairs on him. Yet it never seemed that effective to me because the stairs aren’t actually against him. The monitor shots Shane gives Kane afterwards look rough enough though. The match made for fans of weapon shots and high spots. Not so much the live audience as the two quickly end up backstage. So far backstage that the cameraman following them gets disconnected, and we get a first person-view of another cameraman booking it as fast as he can from the rampway. I don’t think he made it in time as we end up with a cut to another camera that managed to catch up with the two.

To cut the story short, Shane brings the spots and stunts- whacking Kane with a kendo stick, backing an SUV into him, even trapping him in place on the rampway and improvising a Coast-to-Coast. He also does the Rock’s old floatover DDT move. While Kane flings Shane up against any nearby surface; walls, boxes, the ambulance itself (even cracking its windshield). There are even some narrow escapes, as Shane defies getting stuck in the ambulance with a kick, while Kane counters his own entrapment by grabbing Shane by the throat and pulling him in too before booting him out. Finally, Kane ends things by slamming Shane against the ambulance a few times, tombstoning him on the floor, then flinging him into the ambulance for the win. Kane isn’t exactly Frank Gotch, and Shane’s expertise is in jumping off high ledges through breakable surfaces. Fans who abhor hardcore will likely have tuned out around the second technical glitch, while those who adore hardcore were probably watching CZW around this time anyway. Yet, for an extended brawl-and-stunt compilation, it was kind of good. Shane showed pluck, while Kane looked like a beast. For all intents and purposes, it achieved its goal despite the camera glitches.

Backstage, Josh Matthews asks Brock Lesnar about his loss to Team Angle. Except Lesnar says he didn’t lose. Even when Matthews mentioned he tapped out, Lesnar insists he didn’t tap out or lose, blaming his teammates, before saying he could beat up everyone in the company because he’s the WWE Champion. That’s when Goldberg pops out, introduces himself as the World Heavyweight Championship, and asks if Lesnar “wishes him luck” in his match tonight. Lesnar doesn’t look very happy about that.

The crowd isn’t happy either, as Jonathan Coachman comes out. JR says he should volunteer for “enema research”. Thanks for that image, JR. He comes out just to tell everyone he’s okay after he got a 3D from the Dudley Boyz on Raw. But what he’s actually there to do is to notice Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and give him a quick interview. Unfortunately, Cuban says he’s looking forward to seeing “Stone Cold kick Eric Bischoff’s ass!” Bischoff calls him out, while JR wonders “what happened to the Survivor Series?” Me too. Yet this does get saved. Bischoff tries to play the big man against Cuban, Cuban shoves him down, then Randy Orton slinks in from behind and gives Cuban the RKO. JR calls it an “NBA flagrant foul”, and calls Bischoff “a south Texas jackass, and he isn’t even from south Texas … but he’s acting like one.”

Cut to backstage again and into Evolution’s dressing room, where Triple H, Batista and Ric Flair are partying with a bunch of women. Flair offers a toast to “the new World Heavyweight Champion”, before Orton comes in. He tries to tell them what he did but gets distracted by a woman tweaking his nipple. Still, he eventually brags about RKO’ing “the legendary” Mark Cuban. They cheer about ending Stone Cold’s career and getting the World Heavyweight belt back. Talk about jinxing yourself.

That’s a lot of backstage segments and skits. Why were they trying to fill in time like that?

WWE Tag Team Championship Match
The Basham Brothers (Doug Basham & Danny Basham w/ Shaniqua) (C) vs. Los Guerreros (Eddie Guerrero & Chavo Guerrero)

Oh, that’s why. Do you remember the time SmackDown had two gimps as their tag team champions? At least that was The Bashams’ gimmick- two masochists in leather straps led down to the ring by the whip-wielding Shaniqua, aka Tough Enough competitor Linda Miles. Tazz comments on their attire, while Michael Cole says “you’d know all about it” and asks him what the S&M gear is all about. Please let this end soon.

Los Guerreros pop out in a tricked-out truck, complete with spinners- “the new, phat thing” according to Tazz. All isn’t well with them though, as they’re having trouble acting as a unit. Eddie had to fight both Bashams in a handicap match on SmackDown just to get the title shot. They chuck the Bashams out and try to take on Shaniqua before the Bashams make the save. The action moves into the ring as Chavo and Eddie take turns on Danny Basham. Eddie hits him with the Three Amigos, and goes for a pin, but Doug interrupts the count. Chavo and Eddie stay on Danny, with Eddie managing a combined top-rope armdrag and headscissors on both Bashams. Chavo tries to get involved, but the ref holds him back, which inadvertently keeps him from noticing the Bashams hitting Eddie with a double flapjack on the top rope. The Bashams then chuck him to the outside, where Shaniqua hits him with a clothesline and body slam before Danny chucks him back in for a two-count.

Doug gets tagged in, and they double-team Eddie until he gets a headlock in. Eddie powers out and gets the tag to Chavo. He runs wild on both Bashams, until they get the upper hand and hit another double flapjack. They try to hit their double-team finisher on Chavo from the top rope, but Eddie saves him and hits a top rope hurricanrana. Chavo goes for the pin, but it gets interrupted by Doug. Chavo and Danny knock each other down, but Shaniqua distracts the ref from his ten-count by getting on the apron. Chavo gets up and drags her into the ring. Chavo holds her down while Eddie hits her with the Frog Splash (“She deserves it!” says Cole). Eddie then motions to give her a spanking, which Chavo duly provides, much to her displeasure. She is a dominatrix after all. Doug makes the save and attacks Chavo. Chavo counters and hits him with the Tornado DDT, but kicks Eddie in the process. He goes to check in on his fallen uncle, only for Danny to sneak in, roll Chavo up while grabbing the tights, and steals the win.

Maybe I was too hard on the Bashams as they did okay here as the foils to the Guerreros. But then the match ultimately wasn’t about them. Eddie glowers at Chavo, but Chavo tries to explain things by pointing at who the real culprit was. Still, things remain uneasy between them. The story continues.

Ten-Man Tag Team Elimination Match
Team Stone Cold (Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Shawn Michaels & The Dudley Boyz) vs. Team Bischoff (Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry & Scott Steiner)

After a highlight reel of Austin’s classic moments, we get some (then-) recent history with the Texas Rattlesnake. He’s spent the last while raising hell on Raw, drinking beer and beating up Bischoff. Bischoff fires him, only for Linda McMahon to counter him and make Stone Cold the co-GM of Raw. It wasn’t as fun as the time he was CEO in 1999, but he gave Bischoff a Stunner and made him kiss Mae Young. So that’s something. The problem is that, as co-GM, he can’t raise hell unless physically provoked. He tries to verbally provoke everyone- Kane, Test, Batista, even Jonathan Coachman. But they know the deal; Kane shakes his head smugly, Coachman turns his threat against him, and Batista straight up calls him a “g–damn coward.” Stone Cold hates this, so Bischoff offers him a challenge – 5 on 5 teams at Survivor Series.

If Stone Cold’s team wins, he can beat up anyone no matter how he’s provoked. But if Bischoff wins, Stone Cold’s gone. He’s essentially forcing Stone Cold to go against his credo: DTA – Don’t Trust Anybody. Now he has to trust five guys, including the man he stunned out of the company for four years (kayfabe) in Shawn Michaels. No separate entrances for this one. Each team comes out as a unit to their captain’s music. Mark Henry is accompanied by Teddy Long, while Steiner brings out his reluctant valet, Stacy Keibler. Then Stone Cold comes down, leading his gang- including the World Tag Champs in the Dudleys, and Intercontinental Champ RVD. Each wrestler gets in the face of the other, with Jericho already giving Stone Cold his farewells.

The crowd is hot for this match, already chanting for tables as D-Von starts off against Christian. They say “We Want Tables”, but instead they get RVD as D-Von tags him in. Christian manages to get out of his way and tag Jericho in. One man in the front row has been holding a variety of signs all night, but for this one he holds one up saying “Jericho Looks Like Paris Hilton.” He then holds another one with “Weak-Zilla” on when Steiner comes out. Can’t deny that one – he’s fallen far since last year’s event. Jericho hits RVD with an enzuiguri and tags Steiner in. RVD works around him, getting all his fancy leaps and kicks in, until Steiner shuts him down. He even works in his push-ups, a 2-count and a number of ‘HEH’s. RVD goes for a top-rope dive, but Steiner turns it into a top-rope belly-to-belly. Bubba Ray wails in anguish as Steiner goes for the pin, yet it just gets a two-count.

Booker T gets tagged in, gets the upper hand before getting shut down by a Steinerline and elbow drop for another two. Booker T fights back and hits Steiner with the Scissors Kick, but Christian and Jericho run in before he can do a Spinaroonie. He knocks Steiner down for a pin, until Orton makes the save with a boot. This gets everyone running out and attacking each other on the outside, distracting the ref long enough for Steiner to hit Booker with a low blow in the ring. He locks in a Steiner Recliner, just as Stacy Keibler gets up on the apron and cheers for Booker. Steiner gets in her face, only for The Dudleys to hit him with the 3D. One Book End later and Steiner’s done, much to Stacy’s delight. Shame then that Mark Henry comes in and evens the score by hitting the World’s Strongest Slam on Booker for the elimination.

Then he chucks RVD about, until RVD sneaks a tag in on Bubba Ray. He unleashes a flurry of punches on Henry, only for Henry to whip him into the ropes and barge him down to the ground. Bubba fights back, tags D-Von in, and tries a double-team move, only for Henry to clobber them both down. Luckily, after Henry misses a splash in the corner, The Dudleys hit him with a 3D. As they hit the rest of Team Bischoff off the apron, RVD hits Henry with the Five Star Frog Splash, then both he and the Dudleys pin him down for the three. Jericho takes the fight to RVD, which he counters with a split-legged moonsault. It only gets a two as Jericho got his feet on the ropes. He tries to attack Jericho in his own team’s corner, where he gets the tag to Orton. They have a back-and-forth, which RVD gets the upper hand on. He even manages to fit in a springboard sidekick and a Rolling Thunder. He goes for another Five Star Frog Splash, but Jericho pushes him off and into the ropes. One RKO later and RVD’s eliminated.

The odds are evened, but they don’t stay that way. D-Von manages to get a diving headbutt in and counters a blind tag from Jericho with a shoulder barge. He gets a pin attempt in, but Christian and Orton distract the referee. D-Von tries to deal with them, but Jericho hits a sleeper slam in from behind. Bubba Ray moves too slow to save his partner from being eliminated, but he gets the upper hand on Jericho before tagging in Michaels. He gets up to four on a 10-punch spot before hitting an interfering Christian with a double axe handle. Jericho fights back and tags Orton in, who pummels on Michaels. Michaels fights back and they knock each other down, already doing the slow-crawl tag spot. Christian and Bubba Ray get tagged in, and Bubba knocks all of Team Bischoff down. He really runs roughshod through them for a while, including reversing an Orton assault into a Samoan Drop. But then it all goes to pot. He evades a double-team attack from Christian and Jericho, then he goes for a Bubba Bomb on Jericho until a low blow stops him. Christian hits the Unprettier and Bubba is gone. It’s down to one-on-three; Michaels against Christian, Jericho and Orton. “Oh, God …” says JR.

The match has been fair up to now, but this is where it gets really good. Now it’s all about Michaels’ will to survive for the sake of Stone Cold. He fights back against Christian. But Jericho pulls down the ropes when he goes to bounce off them, falling out of the ring. Christian keeps the ref occupied while Jericho and Orton stamp away on him. Team Bischoff take turns tagging each other in to beat on Michaels. Even when he starts fighting back, the others shut him down. Jericho pulls him back to the outside, where Christian slingshots him into the ring post. Michaels starts bleeding as Christian suplexes him back into the ring for a two-count. Christian taunts the crowd by doing Michaels’ pose, which Lawler finds creepy. Christian goes for an Unprettier, which Michaels counters by shoving him into the corner. Christian stuffs his follow-up attack with an elbow, then tries to charge at Michaels. It doesn’t do him any good. Michaels hits the Sweet Chin Music, flops over him for the pin and gets the three.

The crowd chants ‘HBK’ for Michaels as Jericho attacks. Michaels goes for more chops, until Jericho whips him into and over the corner. Michaels tries to fight back but gets knocked back down for a two-count. Orton gets tagged in and chokes Michaels before letting go. In return, Michaels counters a whip into a sleeper hold. Orton returns the favour with a backdrop, then tags Jericho in, who pins for a close two-count. Jericho chokes Michaels from the top, before whipping him into the corner. His springboard nothing is countered with a boot to the gut and a quick DDT from Michaels. He slowly, painfully gets the cover, but Orton interrupts the count. Michaels managed to chuck him out, which Jericho capitalises on by hitting a bulldog and a Lionsault on Michaels. Hope remains alive when Michaels kicks out at two and slowly gets up before the count of ten alongside Jericho. He goes for Sweet Chin Music, only for Jericho to dodge it and go for the Walls of Jericho. Michaels manages to counter it into a small package and eliminates Jericho.

Finally, the odds are even again! Shame Jericho’s a sore loser. He comes back in, smashes Michaels with a chair, then flips Stone Cold the bird. Orton struggles back into the ring to get the pin, only for Michaels to kick out to raucous cheers. Orton goes for a top-rope cross body but ends up hitting the referee instead. Michaels might have dodged it, or as Lawler suggests, fainted from loss of blood. Michaels wills himself up to ‘tune up the band’ and catch Orton unaware. Bischoff climbs in and kicks him before he can strike, which is Stone Cold’s cue to kick the crap out of him. He even hits Orton with a Stunner for good measure, sending him into the ropes. Stone Cold climbs out and beats Bischoff up along the rampway. Unfortunately, just as Michaels goes for the cover, Batista comes in. He pulls Michaels away, sets him up, and hits a fantastic Batista Bomb on him, made even more bittersweet by JR’s cries of “Batista! Batista! Nooo!!” as he falls. He rolls out and escapes, while Orton crawls for the exhausted cover. The dazed referee slowly counts the 3, and that’s it. Stone Cold is done. The camera quickly whips back to Stone Cold at the entrance, looking aghast as Evolution’s music plays.

JR called it “perhaps the most miraculous performance in Shawn Michaels historic and storied career here.” It’s certainly one of the more underrated ones. Perhaps because it’s in a multi-man match? It takes a while to get to his part and, while the first half was okay, the match reaches a much higher peak once it’s down to one-on-three. Stone Cold makes his way back into the ring, looking over Michaels’ broken body, and checks in on him. Michaels even apologises, and Stone Cold gives him a handshake. He escorts Michaels out, then comes back out for his curtain call. Jonathan Coachman tries to eject him with 4 security guards, but Stone Cold beats them all up, giving the Coach a Stunner as a send-off.

If WrestleMania 19 was a send-off for Stone Cold as a wrestler, this could’ve made for a good send-off for him as a regular character. Of course, that’s not how it played out. Not when another returning superstar came by with his petition. Nonetheless, this is perhaps the top match to watch on this card, because aside from the top-notch action, storytelling and drama, it has that big-match feeling. It probably should’ve been the main event. Instead, there’s two more matches to go.

Buried Alive Match
Vince McMahon vs. The Undertaker

The video package features narration, as The Undertaker proclaims there’s no way he’ll be WWE champion as long as Vince is around. “Maybe it’s time for him to stop breathing in and out” he says, while Vince talks about being the chosen one to finish Undertaker off. It comes complete with Taker sitting in a grave, dumping earth in a grave (complete with a plot’s-eye view), and Vince’s leering, moon-like face. Kinda creepy. There’s a giant pile of earth set up on the rampway, complete with a plot and a mound of spare earth with a shovel. The problem is that previous Buried Alive matches were kind of dull because it takes a while to shovel enough dirt by hand on a guy to bury him. So, to save time, there’s now a giant digger set up above it with a shovel full of the stuff. Just chuck your opponent in the hole, press one button in the differ and they’ll be buried faster than someone can make a ‘Triple H buries people’ joke.

Tazz provides some Keys To Victory, which includes “1 – Oh, Those Evil Submissions” for The Undertaker, and “2 – InVINCEable Confidence” for Vince. There’s also “3 – Avoid The HOLE!”, but I would’ve thought that would count for them both. This is Biker-Taker, so he comes out to You’re Gonna Pay in his vest and bandana, but without his motorbike. While Vince walks out, clenching his hands together as if in prayer. He even crouches in the corner of the ring and looks up to the sky. He talks with Taker, who responds with a right hook. He gets cut quickly too, getting a crimson mask before they even get to the grapples. Then again, nine times out of ten, Vince matches are all about seeing him get squashed. If anything, it’s payback for his uncomfortable fight against his daughter Stephanie at the previous No Mercy PPV- a point Cole expands upon by saying it also involves “all the people he’s treated like crap over the years”.

Taker pummels him in the ring, out of the ring, against the commentator’s table, chokes him with cables, and all while spreading his blood everywhere. The assault even shuts Cole and Tazz up for a bit, which must be a relief to some, as Taker says he’s “just getting started.” He even grabs the shovel from the mound and brings it to the ring to wallop a barely alive Vince McMahon. As a nod back to Attitude Era fans, he sandwiches Vince’s ankle on one layer of steel stairs before slamming it with the other, just like the Raw after Breakdown 1998. Eventually, the beating must end. Taker carries Vince over to the mound, where he tries to counter him by chucking dirt in his eyes, then giving him a low blow. He even smacks him with the shovel and sends Taker into the grave. But Taker just pulls him back in. He goes to the digger, ready to give him the coup de grace (not that one, though that would’ve been nuts). However, he gets struck in the face by some pyro. Kane emerges, beats Taker into the grave, and pulls Vince out. He goes to the digger and dumps the dirt on him while Kane poses, winning the match.

Well, that was something. I suppose one could’ve seen it coming, expecting at least some screwiness as everything seemed all too easy. Otherwise it was Taker using Vince as a blood-filled punching bag for a bunch of minutes. It was also the last appearance of Biker-Taker, as the Deadman wouldn’t emerge again until the following WrestleMania, going back to his classic undead monster gimmick. Albeit without the spooky makeup or purple gloves.

World Heavyweight Championship Match
Goldberg (C) vs. Triple H (w/ Ric Flair)

Oh yeah, there’s a World Heavyweight Title match. I almost forgot about it after the last two high stakes matches. One more video package; Goldberg beat Triple H for the title at Unforgiven, which brought the Cerebral Assassin back out. He tries to psych Goldberg out by putting a $100,000 bounty on him- put him on the shelf and the money is yours. So, Goldberg spent the next few weeks dodging attacks backstage. But it was on Raw when Batista stuck a chair around Goldberg’s leg and stamped on it. He got the cash, and Goldberg got a splint. “He’s the proverbial one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, and baby, I wrote the book on kicking ass!” declares Triple H. Well, we’ll see.

Triple H comes out for his usual entrance, only he’s wearing a pair of shorts that look weird on him. Goldberg looks the same as usual, only with his right leg wrapped up to sell the injury. He doesn’t waste time though, taking the fight straight to Triple H while Flair distracts the referee. Then Flair chops Goldberg across the chest and pays for it with a back body drop and a clothesline. The bells rings to officially start the match, and the two take the fight outside for a bit, with Goldberg staying on the offensive throughout, dropping Triple H on the guard rail. Once they return to the ring, Goldberg continues the assault with an Oklahoma slam. However, when he goes for a military press slam, his leg gives way and they both fall over. Flair yells at Triple H to take advantage, which he does with a chop block. Flair leaps up on the apron again to distract the referee, though Triple H doesn’t really do anything illegal yet. Maybe Flair acted too early, as he keeps on while Triple H chucks Goldberg out of the ring, sticks his injured leg on the steps and whacks it with a chair.

Triple H gets back in the ring for a rest, while Goldberg writhes on the outside, the referee providing a ten-count. Flair quickly whips Goldberg’s injured leg against the ring post before Triple H throws him back in the ring. He keeps assaulting the injured leg, with the occasional bit of interference from Flair. Goldberg tries to fight back, but Triple H shuts him down with more kicks and stamps to his bust-up leg. There’s even a single-leg crab, though it happens so close to the ropes Goldberg could’ve grabbed them. Instead Lawler has to cover for him on commentary, saying the pain was so great he didn’t notice them. Triple H tries to wrap Goldberg’s leg around the post, which he counters by kicking him away. Then he tries wrapping it around the ripe, only to get punched away. Goldberg clobbers Triple H with a clothesline, keeping them both down for a bit. Once they get up, Goldberg catches Triple H for a powerslam attempt, only for him to slip down and give him another chop block. He then goes for a Figure 4 leglock (“This is for you, Naitch!”), which Goldberg counters by kicking him off, sending him into the referee.

While he’s down, Flair chucks Triple H some brass knuckles. He clonks Goldberg with them, only to get a 2-count. In frustration, Triple H drops an elbow on the ref, then pulls out the sledgehammer. He even goes for an overhead swing, until Goldberg boots him in the face. Flair goes to the top and hits a shooting star press. Just kidding. Goldberg grabs him and chucks him off the top. “It hasn’t worked in 30 years!” claims JR. Maybe he needs another 5 years for his top-rope work to pay off. Goldberg clobbers both Flair and Triple H, then picks up the sledgehammer. He jabs it into Flair’s gut, before giving Batista and Orton their fair share. Triple H kicks him in the gut, punches him and goes for the Pedigree, only to be countered into a back body drop. Goldberg picks the hammer back up, but then decides to go for what worked for him in the past- a hefty-looking Spear, followed by a Jackhammer. The referee slowly comes back to life and Goldberg gets the win. It’s an old-school story- the injured champ fighting through the pain and impossible odds to retain the belt. It’s as if Triple H was really trying to turn Evolution into the Four Horsemen. Except Goldberg was a few dozen cheeseburgers away from being the next Dusty Rhodes.

People always say the big title should be in the main event, and I’d usually agree. But after a (seemingly) career-ending Survivor Series match, and a (seemingly) life-ending Buried Alive match, it feels rather routine. Either that or it was a way to send the crowd home happy after a night of mostly heel victories. With Stone Cold gone, Undertaker gone, and the Bashams still being tag champions, ending with Triple H gurning smugly with the gold would’ve been a downer.

Still, night of baddies or not, Survivor Series 2003 is still an enjoyable show. Team Angle vs. Team Lesnar was a fun outing, the World Heavyweight bout was a solid match, and the Ambulance match was good for what it was. Even the lowlights, like the Women’s Title match and the Mark Cuban interview, were still fair and entertaining. But the peak comes in the Team Stone Cold vs. Team Bischoff bout. Shawn Michaels steals the show with his never-say-die act, with Orton, Jericho and Christian serving as effective antagonists. Give the show a go sometime.